Week3 Ethical consumerism

While thinking about ethical topics in fashion area, many Regrettable issues are found out which are sweatshop, animal abuse, child labour, poor working condition, environmental destruction, counterfeiting and more. Actually, fashion and environmental protection are seem to be in the opposite. Fashion is short life cycle from the recent season to the next season and some cheap clothes especially from fast fashion shops are disposal. (Cervellon, 2012)

One of the prevalent ethical consumerism activity is a consumer boycott. In an extreme logic, to let consumers buy clothes as few as they can is one of the solution to avoid these issues but as a worker in fashion industry, it is a hard situation for the business because it will discontinue the consumption cycle then it lead the decline of fashion industry. Keeping the balance between activation of fashion industry and being ethical company or consumer is always problematic challenge.

Organic cotton is known as the one of eco-friendly fibre. Organic fibre grows “without restricted synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, growth regulators or defoliants.” (Fletcher, 2012)  Choosing organic cotton instead of other cotton is expected to keep away from the human body contamination and soil pollution caused by chemical fertilizer. Otherwise, returning to an organic farm from a regular farm takes long time and avoiding to use fertilizers reduce crop yields so organic cotton is more expensive than regular cotton. As a result, many consumer choose regular cotton products even organic cotton products seem to be much more morally right.  According to my experience in women clothes company, organic cotton T-shirts was not success like regular cotton T-shirts in the sales. In contrast, lyocell T- shirts made big sales even though it was more expensive than regular cotton T-shirts. Lyocell is one of another eco-friendly fibre made by pulp. Costumers said lyocell T- shirts was more expensive but really comfortable to wear and looks elegant so it was worth as the price besides organic cotton was not looks elegant because of thread clause it had then not seemed as worth as the price. Several consumers give priority to practical benefits and practicality and ethical mind would follow later.

Eco- bag movement from Anya Hindmarch was succeeded ethical consumerism in environmental studies.

“Hindmarch launched her now-famous canvas “eco-tote” emblazoned with the slogan “I’m Not a Plastic Bag”. The limited edition bag, which cost just £5, was intended as a replacement for plastic bags. When it was seen dangling from the arms of Keira Knightley and the model Lily Cole, all 20,000 of the first run sold out in an hour, and within days they were trading on eBay for more than £200.” (Nikkhah, 2009)

eco bag

BBC NEWS MAGAZINE (2007) It’s in the bag, darling[Online image]. Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6587169.stm [Accessed 23/10/13]

The number was not only shows in the sales but also in the number of reducing plastic bags.

“The impact of Hindmarch’s initiative has been huge. Statistics from Wrap, the Government’s anti-waste body, show that shops gave out 3.5 billion fewer plastic bags last year, with the number of plastic bags dispensed falling from 13.4 billion in 2007 to 9.9 billion last year” ( Nikkhah, 2009)

It was different approach to consumers. She pushed environmental issue up to fashion trend and caused that she changed ethical consumerism for general fashion consumers which was done by only activists.

Reasonable trendy bag from famous brand made big sales but how they made it in £5? There seems other ethical issue under the table but Hindmarch said it was. “Typical tabloid hot air.”

“Hindmarch dismisses the negative coverage she received soon afterwards, when it emerged that the bags were made by cheap labour in China, and not with Fairtrade cotton. “Typical tabloid hot air,” she says. “We were upfront from the start that in order to stay within our cost limit, we weren’t going to be able to manufacture the bags in Britain, and we offset all the carbon output from production. And don’t forget we made a loss on every bag. The factory workers were paid double their usual wage, and the factory is checked all the time because it is used by some of the world’s biggest companies. I’m proud of what we did. It made a difference.” (Nikkhah, 2009)

Actually, the bag got into other issue. The bag was limited edition and also popular in the world so there are various replicas in a black market.

“Within 24 hours a Chinese woman married her prince wearing a replica of Kate Middleton’s wedding dress. Many fashion designers are monitoring what Kate Middleton is wearing so they can produce replica fashion creations. This phenomenon is not new. Copies of Red Carpet fashions (e.g. Golden Globes, the Emmys and the Oscars)are sold as wedding dress, bridesmaid dresses, cocktail dresses, prom gowns or ball gowns, and are quickly distributed to the market after such events”(Miller, 2013)

img-kate-middleton-wedding-dress_075548914142_jpg_article_gallery_slideshow_v2

VOGUE DAILY (2011) Catherine Middleton and her sister, Pippa Middleton [Online Image]. Available from: http://www.vogue.com/vogue-daily/article/kate-middletons-wedding-dress/#1 [Accessed 23/10/13]

This is typical story about counterfeiting but there are a large amount of replicas not only in the black market. Most of trend for next season is recognised from the runway of world famous brand collection. Fast fashion companies often use these design details and use it for their design sauce.  Sometime we can find new trend design before the original product would be appeared in the shop. Education for copy products boycott of luxury brands are slightly expanded by customs control but clothes copies are difficult to recognize.

Companies try to produce clothes and fashion goods quickly and reasonable as demanding of customers but  they also need to mention that reading consumer psychology and predicting consumer behaviour then approaching to consumer with back ground information will guide smart consumer to a right purchasing without losing sales for a company.

Reference

Cervellon, M.C. and Wernerfelt, A.S. (2012) Knowledge sharing among green fashion communities online Lessons for the sustainable supply chain. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, 16(2), pp. 176 – 192.

Fletcher, K and Grose, L (2012) Fashion & Sustainability: Design for Change, London, Laurence King.

Miller, K. (2013) Hedonic customer responses to fast fashion and replicas. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, 17(2), pp160-174

Nikkhah, R. (2009) Anya Hindmarch: bag lady with a £20m empire [Online] Telegraph. Available from: http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/news-features/TMG5178887/Anya-Hindmarch-bag-lady-with-a-20m-empire.html [Accessed 23/10/13]

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Week2: Discuss findings of report on current industry practices

Recently, economical concernment is one of my big issue as a full time student without any jobs and incomes. Otherwise, to dress different is also make me concern every morning. Thankfully, fast fashion brands like H&M, ZARA and TOPSHOP are everywhere and they always keep enough stock for customers so now, it is easy to buy much more clothes than before. For example, I was also a full time university student in fifteen years ago. Buying many trend clothes were difficult for me even I had small income by part time job. Approximately, purchasing a garment per month was my best result but now I can buy three garments per month in same price furthermore these are always looks new and nowadays trend.

The word fast fashion is kind a new word which is used within a decade. Fast fashion is

“a term used to describe cheap and affordable clothes which are the result of catwalk designs moving into stores in the fastest possible way in order to respond to the latest trends” (MACMILLAN DICTIONARY: http://www.macmillandictionary.com/open-dictionary/entries/fast-fashion.htm)

so, they should be quick and cheap like fast food. When a company make clothe cheaper, they usually use the method of mass production. Mass production is “To produce in great quantities by a standardised, mechanised process. Ready-to-wear is a form of mass production; however, the term has come to mean the volume market.”(Gavin Waddell, How Fashion Works: Couture, Ready-to-Wear and Mass Production, Blackwell publishing, the UK, 2004)

Fast fashion with mass production has been changed consumers behaviour. Buying fashion items is one of the daily amusement in these days. However, fast fashion with mass production has some negative points. Firstly, low cost labour with poor working environment in developing countries which we studied before is very negative point for saving human rights. Also, over stock and making CO2 footprints are harmful for ecological viewpoint. Wearing same and less originality are likewise deplorable point.

Particular, thing to be discussed as I used to work as quality control is the hollowing out of industry and quality of production.

The ironical report was spread just before the world big event in 2012.

As a convention, national team uniforms for the Olympic are produced in their own country. Specially, for the country which has a big fashion city as London, Paris, Milan, Tokyo and New York this is a good opportunity to show their great industrial power to the world. Additionally, it can be national undertaking for domestic industry so, the country work with local designer and local company. For instance, British national uniform was designed by Stella McCartney.

The USA national uniform was designed by Ralph Lauren which is one of the global famous high class brand in the USA. But when the tag had been checked the problem was come up because it was not made in the USA. It was made in China.

“Politicians from Left and Right expressed dismay that the job of producing the outfits that will be donned by their athletes for official ceremonies had not given to ailing American manufacturers.

“It is not just a label, it’s an economic solution,” said Steve Israel, a Democrat who represents New York. “There are 600,000 vacant manufacturing jobs in this country and the Olympic committee is outsourcing the manufacturing of uniforms to China? That is not just outrageous, it’s just plain dumb.”

The blazers, trousers, skirts and berets were designed by Ralph Lauren, one of America’s leading designers. “You’d think they’d know better,” said John Boehner, the Republican House Speaker.

The disclosure prompted a rare moment of unity in an era of ferocious partisanship in Washington that has frequently brought gridlock to the US political system.

“I am so upset,” said Harry Reid, the Democrats’ Senate leader. “I think the Olympic committee should be ashamed of themselves.

“I think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over again,” said Mr Reid, who added that it would be preferable for the athletes to wear a plain vest bearing a hand-painted “USA”. Letters of protest were sent to the US Olympic Committee (USOC).

With unemployment stuck at more than eight per cent and new job creation almost stagnant, the outsourcing of work has become one of the most fiercely-contested issues of the presidential campaign.

In a statement, the USOC said: “We’re proud of our partnership with Ralph Lauren, an iconic American company.” Lauren’s firm declined to comment.” (The telegraph, 13 Jul 2012)

USolympicUniform_2276147b

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/news/9398541/US-Olympic-uniforms-made-in-China.html This is not unusual for our daily clothes. Most of clothes are made in other countries for saving cost. Actually, it was for saving cost at first but after years ago, many domestic factories close their business as a result of flowing out of jobs to overseas. Finally, it is difficult to find good garment factories in local area.

“The fall-off in both textile and apparel employment in the United States has continued if not accelerated. The average annual number of U.S. employees in textile mill products in 1990 was 691,000. By the end of 1998, that number had dropped to 579,000. In apparel-making, the drop was from 1,036,200 to 731,000 in the same period. (Maurice J. Johnson Evelyn C.Moore, Apparel Product Development, Prentice Hall, The USA New Jersey, 2001)

This is the number of the USA but similar things are happen in any other countries too. It could be happen in Japan and the UK too. Saving domestic industry is sometime forgot under the growth of economic but to protect manufacturing is same as protecting culture and tradition otherwise, there were possibilities to growth economics in same term.   

Week1: Examples of poor working conditions from fashion history – silk spinning –

Textile trades were one of the most important manufacturing for development a countries. This industry conveyed foreign currencies and many countries propagated by these incomes in empire era. Silk trading was one of the biggest business which was a fundamental of wealth and power for the developing countries. On the other hands, jobs in textile factories are not easy and comfortable therefore these tasks are often entrusted to lower classes and socially weakness. Specially, it was in the empire era thus an awareness about human rights were not taken by the society besides there were caste and social class.

“The silk spinners were often among the poorest in the community and had the least protection when there was a downturn in the industry, or there was war or civil disturbance. In Bursa, the silk women worked for the silk merchants, bleaching and spinning silk. Around half of them owned their own spindles and so were not totally beholden to the merchants. The women had not formed a silk spinners’ guild so they did not have the obligations or expense of guild fees, but they did not have the protection afforded by guild rules either. Some worked in their homes, sold their spun silk in the street, or at special markets.”(Pricilla Lowry, THE SECRETS OF SILK: From Textiles to Fashion, St John’s Press, the UK, 2004)

“Traditionally, silk worms were raised by peasant women in the Rhone valley” (WOMEN AND THE MAKING OF THE WORKING CLASS: LYON 1830-1870, Laura S. Strumingher, Eden Press Women’s Publications, U.S.A, 1979)

This is the basic process of spinning silk.

“The traditional method of pulling and reeling silk continued throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, but gradually more and more pulling and reeling factories, called filatures, which used steam to heat the basins, were constructed in and near Lyon. Silk entrepreneurs were eager to improve the quality of the raw silk produced on the farm, which was often poor. The women who had to tend a stove while pulling and reeling was unable to do either job well. Her stove frequently gave out smoke that was bad for the delicate fibers of the silk, and it often operated irregularly so that the temperature of the water in the basin was not uniform. “(WOMEN AND THE MAKING OF THE WORKING CLASS: LYON 1830-1870, Laura S. Strumingher, Eden Press Women’s Publications, U.S.A, 1979)

Silk Industry (YouTube) – process of silk spinning

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCdMZsNXans

The part of process of using boiled water was always emitted humidity in a factory. Boiling cocoons also release special stinking. Before facilities were developed in factories, environments in factories was terrible with heat, humidity and reek. Consequently, this hard labour was operated by unfortunate.

Regrettably, Japan also has similar history and there are famous non-fiction novel “Ah! Nomugi toge” written by Shigemi Yamamoto is story about this sorrowful history.

book

This is also on the film in 1979

nomugi5

http://academic.evergreen.edu/curricular/japan/film_nomugi.htm

In the early 1900’s, Japan tried developing and got into the empire era so silk industry was one of the most important trading source as same as other countries. Okaya in Nagano prefecture in Japan was a huge silk industry area in mountainous region. Hundreds of girls from poor peasant families away from their village then came and stayed at factory from February to December. The youngest started their job from 12 years-old. Nomugi toge is the name of pass from the village to Okaya where the town the factory was placed. Now, the area is as known as a ski resort but for the residence in the area, deep snow give them many inconvenience. There were no cars and enough warm clothes and boots for these girls but when they go and back to between the village and the factory is winter so they had to walk 140km (87mile) of deep snow road in the mountainous area. After the long walk, they start job immediately. They approximately worked 13 or 14 hours in a day in the awful environment with heat, humidity and stink but they could get only few labour fee. The accommodation where factory workers stayed had windows but all the window were grated for the prevention of workers escape. Some of them had illness and health problems besides some of the girls got harassment from employer. Even they knew the work in the factory was extremely hard, there were no other way to get money for daily life so many poor peasant families sent their daughters to the factory with apologies.

In same time, there was another famous silk factory in Tomioka, Gunma prefecture in Japan. It was the first huge state-run factory and symbol of the modern industrial revolution in Japan. The city was suburbs but not mountainous area and closer to Tokyo than from Okaya to Tokyo. It was an iconic factory with French engineer so the facility was good quality. In addition, the French engineer brought modern working styles so the factory had work regulations and employee welfare also hospital and employee facilities are in there. Most of the workers are daughter from officials and military families. From the work regulation, they approximately worked about 8 hours in a day and had 76days off per a year. Even in this good environment, workers in Tomioka got better wage than workers in Okaya.

silk spining machine

working for silk

Similar situation is happening in some countries still now. My main idea of wealth gap is caused by countries wealth gap. Nevertheless, according to the history I think poor work in nowadays are not only made by the gap from developed countries and developing countries. There are gaps inside of developing countries or communities so even if the country become a developed country at economic situation, poor work will not be eradicated.  Constructing the knowledge and senses of human rights while they growing up their economy should be controlled by government.

Week 0 about my self

Firstly, I am writing down about myself. I started my fashion business career in 2000. It was just after graduate the university but I did not study about fashion in the university. I started working at lady’s clothes wholesale company in Japan as an assistant of Sales and Logistics Department. I learned the way to deal with retailers and methods of fashion calendar. In the second year, I got a chance to work as a textile buyer and a quality control at a ladies’ fashion design team. While I was working at the design team, I studied the process of planning and making clothes. Working with many competent engineers at weaving, knitting and garment factories were also improved acknowledge about fashion industry therefore I was into fashion business more and more. Caused of it, I started studying for a qualification of Textiles Evaluation Specialist in Japan. It was hard but interesting because I could use my experience on my job for studying it and sometime I faced similar case which I just learned from the textbook on my job.

After I spent six years in the company, I decided to finish my job in there to get some experience in the UK. I studied English at a language school then I worked at PR company in London as an internship program from the school. It was only four months and I just worked as an assistant staff even though I could find many difference from Japanese fashion industry to British fashion industry. In the next year, I’d got job in different company which I worked before. I was also doing a textile buyer and a quality control in manufacturing and retailing section for three years then I moved in wholesale section for 3years.

During my work in there, the environment of Japanese fashion industry had changed a lot. Fast fashion has made big succeed after H&M and Forever21 started their business in Japan.

They were very useful for not only youth but also mature people because economic situation was not really good as same as 10 years ago and many people work as temporary worker or part time worker. However a salary base of people who are getting proper job also don’t increase. Japan has been in deflation.

It was difficult situation for companies and soon, they start the cost cutting race. Most of the companies sift their manufacturing from Japan to China, Vietnam and some other Southeast Asian countries. On the other hand, I saw many domestic garment or knitting factories going bankrupt in same time. Usually, we can’t order small numbers of garments in oversea factories so we have to have amount of stocks. As a result, we need to have extra work for the special sale. When I saw these stocks which were piled up at the back yard treated as rubbish, I was pretty emotional. When I check prices on them, I was confused because the price was cheaper than textile price in Japan. It was easy to imagine how small labour wage they got in oversea factories.

I know many designers and factory workers work hard and often do overtime and stay at office even their day off. Workers in oversea are work hard but can’t get enough money. Clothes are sold invalid price then finally they are treated as rubbish. I remember my childhood, I was excited before wearing new dress. When I was in my favourite dress, I was so happy.

I wondered who can be happy with this situation. Consumer? I don’t think all consumer can be happy with this because this economic cycle give same effect to the other industry too and all most of consumer work in any industry. Ofcourse in other country, people who work with illegal labour cost are not happy. If their labour wage become better, companies try to find the other lower labour wage factory so they will lost their job.

Generally, Japan is talked that their mind is following ten years forward from western countries and Japan is not such an ethical country yet. For example, we didn’t have many activists before Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011 but after the earthquake, people concern with nature, family and internal issue much more than before. I think Japan will be more ethical country and the action of consumer will change.

Here is a very interesting brand which named “Honest By”. This is established by Belgian designer Bruno Pieters in 2012.

“He wanted to show not only that he could source sustainable and fairly traded fabrics and raw materials, but also to give as much information as he could about the content and origin of those fabrics, and – this is the really brave part – how much each garment cost to make, from the price of the buttons to the cost of manufacturing.”(Telegraph, 09 March 2013)

This approach was kind of taboo in fashion business because they want to keep budget as much as they can. Also, I think most of consumers want to be ethic but can’t be ethic if they only see their own economic situation and their own happiness.

This is experimental approach but showing all proses and cost may lead consumer to understand valid price and it can be a reference to compare with their own situation and workers situation.

Reference

・Textiles Evaluation Specialist

http://www.jasta1.or.jp/index_english.html

・“Honest By”

http://www.honestby.com/

・Telegraph, 09 March 2013

http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/news-features/TMG9918892/Bruno-Pieterss-Honest-By-The-only-way-is-ethics.html#